USA

Trip Start Nov 12, 2004
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Trip End Aug 28, 2005


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Flag of United States  , California
Monday, July 11, 2005

We've arrived, crossed the international date line and gained a day. We left Fiji at 10pm on Sunday 10th July and arrived in Los Angeles the same day at 1pm (9 hours before we left)!?! How does that work??

We'll update the site with more news as it comes. In the meantime, news of the horrific bombings in London have filtered through to us. We're absolutely shockjed and horrified and most of all, we hope all our friends and families are safe.

Our first week was spent in Los Angeles. We've been to Hollywood, seen the stars and wandered the walk of fame. We saw all the famous handprints at the Chinese Theatre (Vicky was chuffed that her's are the same size as Doris Day's).

My sister (thats me, Mark), came up for 3 days and we had an amazing time spending her money in Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive hasn't been the same since!

On our final day there we went to Universal Studios, went on lots of rides and saw loads of special effects. Vicky being her usual dainty self, didn't see a kerb painted bright yellow, tripped, ripped her only pair of trousers, and sprained her ankle! She's fine but hobbling around with a bandage on it and smelling rather curiously of embrcation oil!! Oh well, another country another accident, I suppose it has been at least 3 months.

The plan from now- we've hired a car and are driving up the California cost through Moneterey to San Francisco, then down to Yosemite, across through Death Valley to Las Vegas then to the Grand Canyon, San Diego and back to LA.

As ever, more to come including the photos from Brisbane, Fiji and Los Angeles, keep checking back and they'll be here soon.

Ta Ta for now!

***UPDATE!***

We have some news.... The end is in sight....Flights in the US are incredibly busy and we've had to book ahead to get seats. We'll be flying back to Gatwick on Sunday 28th August and that'll be it, all over! We can't beleive it's come round already, albeit slightly earlier than planned but, having had such a great time, we've spent the money and enjoyed ourselves rather than saved it and missed out on things. And boy, have we had a great time, trully the time of our lives!

We finally managed to escape LA, a place that we've nicknamed "The Zoo", what a sprawling matropolis that place is! Nothing like the movies would have you beleive, it's a traffic choked, smog filled city where the super rich live alongside a huge number of homeless people. It's in your face, large and full volume USA.

We've hired a car and have set off on another massive road trip. This time we are following in the footsteps of my (mark) Mum and Dad. One of their favourite holidays was pretty much the exact same route we're now taking. The route was north out of LA along the west coast of California. Leaving the smog behind we quickly got sunshine and soon got on the famous rollercoaster Big Sur road. With seals on the beaches, glorious sea views to our left, soaring mountains all around we were off again.

On the road to San Francisco we stopped at a few overnight rest stops. These included San Luis Obispo, then Carmel then Moss Landing near Monterey Bay. We took time to explore these quaint (in the english village sense) little places. In Monterey we went out to go whale watching on a boat. We weren't disappointed as there were loads of humpbacks, some with calves in tow. They were all just feet from the boat. Out in the distance there was a massive black lump that just lunged back into the ocean. As we neared it became clear that this wasn't an undiscovered continent, but in fact a huge Blue Whale.


3/8/05
My turn now (the clumsy one).

So, after whale watching in Monterey and chilling out in the pretty
fishing harbours, we headed into San Fransisco. A bit daunting, but
with my navigational skills (seriously, they are pretty good!) we soon
arrived at our hotel.

San Fransisco is a really pretty and very hilly city. Some of the
slopes I wouldn't want to walk down, never mind up! We spent time in
the harbour soaking in the atmosphere, wandered the shops and of
course took a boat cruise which took us under the Golden Gate bridge,
which is actually the smallest bridge in the city, but definitely the
prettiest. We also took a tram ride into the city centre which
started out being relaxing and good fun, but as more and more people
crammed on it turned into a bit of a nightmare, especially with my
gammy ankle making it hard for me to stand up! We did the obligatory
tour of Alcatraz which was interesting but the conditions were nothing
like the other prisons we'd visited on the trip. Quite luxurious in
comparison in fact! We had a great few days in San Fran - the
influences of the 60's are very much still there and it's a fun,
vibrant and quirky place to be. And the sun shone for us too which
was great as normally the city is shrouded in fog this time of year!

After SF, we headed to Yosemite stopping en route in a little town
that looked straight out of the old West.

Yosemite is an amazing place. It's high up in the mountains and the
scenery is some of the most amazing we'd ever seen. In fact, THE most
amazing up until that point in time (a few days later we were blown
away once again but more on that shortly). The rock formations were
incredible, the waterfalls enormous, the rivers beautiful and the
tranquility (despite being full of Americans!) was blissful. We took
a walk down a steep hill to see a Giant Sequoia which was massive.
Unfortunately so were the mosquitos. Despite our best efforts to
smack them all, we got covered in bites! After that the heat was a
bit too much to indulge in any hikes but this is the US and everything
is made for cars so we were able to pretty much drive all the way up
to many of the most scenic spots, indulging our lazy bones in air
conditioned comfort at the same time! We spent the night in Yosemite
in a glorified tent and the next day headed out nice and early to get
ourselves to the edge of Death Valley ready for an early start the
next day.

Death Valley was a complete contrast to Yosemite. Yosemite was lush
and green, and Death Valley (as the name implies) was barren, dry and
dusty yet stunning in it's own way. Again, we got out of the car as
little as possible as the temperatures had been hitting 48 degrees.
When we did venture out it was like walking into an oven. I could
feel myself being cooked! We took ourselves to the Badwater Basin,
the lowest point on the planet at 282 feet below sea level and took a
small wander on the Devils Golf Course, a saltwater pan full of huge
lumps of salt that look like (you guessed it!) golf balls! We made it
out the other side of the valley alive and well and took ourselves
through the Nevada desert to the city that never sleeps - LAS VEGAS!

Weird, weird place. We drove for miles and miles through nothing but
desert and military areas and then all of a sudden there it was on the
horizon, the bright lights of Vegas. Once again I successfully
navigated our way to the strip (he'd be lost - literally - without me,
I tell you!). From our hotel we could see just a small portion of
what was on offer, but after a very sweltering walk along the strip we
were gobsmacked by the size and number of huge hotels, all with their
own theme. The ones that stand out the most are The Venetian, with
it's own Grand Canal and Rialto Bridge outside, and it's own St Marks
Square on the inside (complete with a ceiling that changes from day to
night!), the Paris with a half sized replica of the Eiffel Tower
outside (we took a trip to the top - the view was incredible!), the
Bellagio with the famous fountains outside that were choreographed to
music every 15 minutes and New York New York with it's own Empire
State building and Statue of Liberty outside and a full on Greenwich
Village on the inside. The casinos in all these places were similar
yet fascinating. The number of people who sit there for hours on end
plugging coins into the machines is amazing. Mark put a dollar in and
got four dollars back, but I then lost it all for him! I really
wanted a go at roulette but didn't feel quite confident enough for
that, so I made do with watching others play feeling quite smug that I
understood how the betting worked!

After Vegas it was time for a good long drive that took us over the
Hoover Dam (huge and amazing but really bloody hot - must have been
about 50 degs) then across the Nevada/Arizona border on the way to the
Grand Canyon via an original section of the famous Route 66. We
stayed in a town called Williams which is on the original route and
still full of all the famously wierd and wonderful shops and
restaurants that the route is famous for. It's also the beginning of
the Grand Canyon Railway, which we didn't take but enjoyed watching as
it's a gorgeous old steam engine.

So, the Grand Canyon! Well it's at this point that words just about
fail me. Up until now Yosemite had been the most amazing place I'd
ever seen but the Grand Canyon just blows it out of the water. The
sheer size and scale of the place just can't be summed up. What we
saw was massive (a mile deep and 16 miles from one side to the other)
yet we only saw such a small section of it. It's over 220 miles long.
The colours and formations in the rock were amazing and the mighty
Colorada river looked like a meandering stream trickling along at the
bottom of it. If you looked really hard you could see tiny coloured
dots on the water. They were rafts riding the rapids! And if the
wind was blowing the right direction we could hear the rapids. Just a
faint noise like the breeze rustling a few leaves in a tree, yet you
can imagine the sound of rapids up close! We had two days at the
Canyon. The first was spent driving along the scenic route with our
mouths agape most of the time. The second, we took a walk along the
rim and then splashed out on a scenic flight. This was just great.
We got so much more of a sense of the enormity of the place seeing it
from up above. One minute we were flying several hundred feet above
the ground, and then it just fell from beneath us. Just awe
inspiring.

From one natural scenic wonder to one completely man made. After
leaving the Canyon, we did a monstrous drive (well, Mark drove, I
navigated - driving on the right freaks me out) back to LA ready for 2
days of fantasy fun at Disneyland. It was just great. Complete
cutesy pie perfection but just magic. It's true - it does make you
feel like you're 6 years old all over again. We spend the first day
in the Disney park doing the rides. The Indiana Jones ride was pretty
fab as was Splash Mountain (and the splashing was very welcome in the
heat!) We came back that evening for the Parade of Dreams along Main
Street USA and the fireworks over Sleeping Beauty's castle which was
just the most amazing display I've ever seen. It lasted about half an
hour and was absolutely huge. The crowds were immense but it was
worth battling through them for! After that, we did the most famous
Disney ride, Space Mountain (having obtained a pass for it earlier in
the day as the queues are huge!). It's just the best roller coaster
ever! So fast it even ripped Mark's sunglasses off when they were
tucked into his t-shirt!

The next day we did the other park on the site - the California park.
This place was much quieter so we managed lots more rides. Most were
quite traditional fairground style but the Maliboomer (where we were
rocketed 180 feet up in the air!) and the Grizzly River Run (I got
soaked through!) were the best. The ultimate experience however was
the Hollywood Tower of Terror, perhaps the best ride I've ever been
on. I screamed myself hoarse! We were lifted up in an elevator then
dropped, then hoisted up again, then dropped. At the very top,
windows opened up and we could see how high up we were ( we could see
over the whole park!), then we were dropped again. Terrifying, not
knowing whether we'd be flung up or down or what was coming next.
Took me 15 minutes to stop shaking. The photo was hilarious too - me
clinging onto Mark for dear life screaming my head off, and him
looking at me a laughing, relaxed as you like!

Anyway, back to LAX now. That's our West Coast adventure over, now
it's time to explore the Deep South. Flying to New Orleans via
Houston tomorrow so will update when we've had an experience of the
Southern laid back culture - will sure be different to hectic
California!
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